For the 224th matchup between Texas and Texas A&M, the atmosphere inside Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena was less than the electric aura players anticipated.
While the arena’s energy and intensity may have been lacking — student attendance at the game was sparse — junior guard Jase Febres’ wasn’t. The 3-point specialist managed to find his long-lost shooting rhythm, exploding for a game-high 17 points on four 3-pointers in Texas’ 60-50 win in its restored rivalry with A&M.
But even with Febres off to his worst shooting start to a season since his freshman year and struggling with confidence in his own abilities, his teammates’ and coach’s faith in him hasn’t wavered.
“With guys like (Febres), who have shown that they can make shots and put time in … eventually it comes around when you’re that good of a shooter,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said, insisting Febres’ slump was due to a mental block. “He’s that good of a shooter.”
On Sunday afternoon, Smart’s patience was rewarded.
Following a morning shootaround with redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones and several other teammates, Febres found comfort in his revamped, natural approach.
“It’s really just been me slowing down,” Febres said. “I just keep stepping in and being confident, more natural and more fluid.”
Febres’ electric midday outing marked a season high in points and featured a new, more aggressive mindset Febres has been working on this season.
However, Febres’ afternoon performance was a result of more than just a change in shooting mechanics and mental approach. He managed to get some help from his teammates, too.
His teammates found him in transition throughout the day as the Longhorns scored 14 points off of 21 Aggie turnovers and held the Aggies to 17 first-half points, tying their season low.
“Coach (Smart) was telling us to keep being aggressive, and it started on the defensive end,” said Febres, who pitched in a steal of his own.
Texas’ defensive first half was nothing short of dominant. Texas consistently smothered its Aggie counterparts, forcing 11 first-half turnovers. A&M’s largest lead — one point — lasted only 21 seconds.
Offensively, Texas’ first-half performance left much to be desired.
Through six minutes, the two teams combined for a mere seven points while shooting under 20%. Febres’ 3-point shooting was limited to just one successful attempt from deep, although he did convert on a pair of attempts from inside the arc.
“Coach was preaching about … getting a paint touch before we shoot,” Febres said. “We got into the paint, and (my teammates) keep putting confidence in me. I know these past few games I haven’t been shooting as well as I know I can, but hopefully with this game I can bounce back and contribute like I have (been).”
Now, with final exams approaching, Texas players will have nearly a week off before Star Wars Night against Central Michigan next Saturday and then play their last two nonconference games.
“We’ll have time to grow as a team through this long break we have for the winter,” Febres said. “This is when teams take a step, and we’re looking to take a step in the right direction.”